With everything that happened in 2020, it’s been tough to follow a healthy lifestyle. Grocery stores ran low on stock, gyms faced closures, and millions of people were left stressed out and trying to adapt to a new daily routine. It’s no surprise that preparing healthy meals and exercising were the farthest thing from many people’s minds!
As the new year approaches, it’s a new opportunity to recommit to a healthy lifestyle. 2021 is the time to focus on your wellbeing again, and here are five things you can do to make it your best year ever:
1. Improve your sleep hygiene.
Many people were fortunate enough to stay employed while businesses were closed, but that often meant working from home, which meant an average of an extra three hours of work a day, and a seriously blurred line between work and home life. When you couple that with stress, “doom scrolling” (reading a virtually endless feed of bad news), and the fact that many home offices wound up in people’s bedrooms, you can see what an impact that has on sleep hygiene.
This coming year refocus on getting enough high-quality sleep. If you have a home office, try to keep it out of your bedroom. Enforce stronger boundaries between work and home life. Avoid using devices for an hour before bed. Set a regular bedtime and try to adhere to it as well as you can. If possible, get to bed by ten o’clock — before midnight is when your sleep is deepest and most restorative.
2. Stay hydrated.
If you’re juggling helping kids with distance learning, working from home, or working outside the home while staying safe, remembering to drink enough water can fall by the wayside. Pick up a reusable water bottle and fill it at the beginning of every day, even if you aren’t thirsty at the moment. Keeping it nearby can serve as a reminder to drink it. You can also try downloading a water reminder app, which will send you notifications throughout the day.
3. Eat more fiber.
One of the most comprehensive, long-running health study ever conducted — The Blue Mountain Eye Study — found that fiber was the dietary factor that correlated the most with successful aging. That means that study participants who ate a high-fiber diet were also less likely to have developed diabetes, cancer, or heart problems as they aged. As more and more research uncovers the importance of gut health for overall wellness, and the role that fiber plays in improving and maintaining gut health, it’s easy to see why eating enough high-fiber foods is a cornerstone of a healthy diet. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all good sources of fiber (as well as key vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients). In a pinch, you can also try adding a fiber supplement like psyllium seed husk to your diet.
4. Practice joyful (and consistent) movement.
If you’re under stress already, pushing yourself to do a workout you don’t enjoy is probably the last thing you want to do — no matter how good it is for you. That can make you struggle to fit physical activity into your day. When it comes down to it, exercising consistently is more important than the type of exercise you do. Find something you enjoy, even if it isn’t as grueling as your usual routine, and stick to it. Try an online dance class, a yoga video, or even just a hike outdoors. As long as you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick to it.
5. Take a belly breathing break.
Even if you aren’t a meditation aficionado, you can still get a lot out of a brief break to relax and connect with yourself. Lower your shoulders, relax your jaw, sit up straight, close your eyes, and focus on breathing deeply into your stomach for five minutes. It’s a quick, simple exercise that can improve your mood, reduce pain, and lower your stress level all at once.
Good health is about more than just eating well and exercising; it’s grounded in every facet of our daily lives. From getting high-quality sleep, to drinking enough water, to following a good diet, to moving more, to connecting with our bodies and taking time to relax, everything we do can either contribute or detract from our overall wellbeing. This year, follow these simple tips and commit to having the healthiest 2021 you possibly can.